Swap — If You Can't Handle the Heat — Sin Bin

Saturday 4 October 2014

A hunky Highlander, a good #mystery, #timetravel and #HotSex LOST TIME—A steamy #weekendread

The First Three Chapters + a Bonus Chapter of erotic time-travel romance LOST TIME

Hannah Keys thinks she's setting off on the trip of her dreams—a month in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland—but after one mishap after another—beginning with her best friend abandoning her in the airport and ending with the man of her dreams dead—she's renaming it the vacation from hell!

Chapter One

Hannah Keys rode sleepily on a bus headed for Wales. She was alone, thanks to her friend Cassidy who’d flaked on her at the last possible moment. Hannah and Cassie had been planning this trip to the UK for years—a month in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, a week for each.

Twenty-four years old, Hannah—a Canadian girl raised by her transplanted English mother—used to sit and listen for hours as her mum told stories of growing up in London, of the family she’d left behind, including Hannah’s father. His death had been the catalyst that had sent her mum fleeing to different shores before Hannah was born, to get away from the memories that were far too painful. Her mum had talked of friends from school, the beautiful countryside, of haunted castles and the amazing architecture that stood the test of time.

Hannah had read everything she could get her greedy little hands on, whether it be a history book or a historical romance novel or the old books her mum had brought over. Hannah had sat for hours and looked at the old photos, including one of her dad. She’d always been enamoured with anything English—the monarchy, the castles, and the history—while Scotland and Ireland held their own share of legend and lore that lured her imagination. Her mother had made everything sound so romantic, and now that her mum was gone, Hannah wanted and needed to see where her mother had come from.

The plan had always been to see the UK with her mum, but when her mother got sick, everything had changed. But she had made Hannah promise that she would still take the trip. That was when her best friend Cassie had stepped in to take her mother’s place. And it hadn’t hurt that Cassie had just seen 300, starring Gerard Butler. After that, Cass was convinced that every other guy in the UK might possibly look like Gerard, and she was all in.

At least Hannah had thought she was all in. But as she’d stood in line at the airport, with images of old stone castles and moors in bloom, rowdy pubs and Stonehenge running through her overly-excited mind, waiting for her BFF to show, the last thing she’d expected was for her cell phone ring and have her FBFF—former best friend forever—abandon her. Although Cassie had attempted to apologise enthusiastically, it would be a cold day when Hannah accepted it.

“What do you mean you’re not coming?” Hannah had asked through gritted teeth.

“Paul proposed last night!” she’d gushed. “Isn’t that the best news ever, Hannah?”

Hannah might have been happy for her at any other time, or if she hadn’t thought Paul was a complete dick and had only asked Cassie this life-altering question the night before the big trip because he didn’t want Cassie to go off without him…even though it had been planned long before he’d even met her. But, as much as Hannah disliked Paul as a person, she secretly envied what Cassie had with him. She wanted that for herself—someone to share her life with, someone to love and who loved her in return. She hadn’t allowed herself to be close to anyone since her mum had passed away. Hannah was determined never to love someone so completely again. It only led to heartache. Besides, she’d never had much luck with guys or relationships, anyway. They only wanted one thing, and it wasn’t her heart.

“And you can’t meet me why?” Hannah asked a little too loudly, causing other waiting passengers to look in her direction.

“Because I don’t want to leave him now,” she whined, as if that should explain it all.

“But you can spend the rest of your life with good old Paul after we get back. Cassie, we’ve planned this trip for seven freakin’ years, and I’m standing in the airport all by myself waiting for—”

“Oh, I knew you’d understand, Hannah. You’re the best. I’ll see you when you get back and you can tell me all about the Gerards that you shagged without me. Send me a postcard from Ireland. I’ll make this up to you, Hannie, I promise, ’kay? Love you. Bye-bye.”

The cell went quiet and Hannah resisted the urge to spike the damn thing on the floor. She spent the next thirty minutes panicking and pacing, trying to convince herself not to go back home.

You’ve come this far. You’re so close. Everything you’ve dreamt about is only a plane ticket and an ocean away.

She was insane to travel unaccompanied. Not only the danger, but what fun would it be to sightsee and bar-hop? Single White Female abroad and alone. She was just asking for trouble. Right?

Damn it, she argued, she’d scrimped and saved and budgeted for so long and she’d already spent the money. Besides, she really wanted to go, with or without Cass. This was her dream. And she’d vowed to her mother on her deathbed that she would take this trip.

Despite the last-minute problem, something inside her pulled her in that direction. It always had. Perhaps, if she was honest with herself, she should have realised that Cassie had never been as excited about this journey as she had.

So, for once, she threw caution to the wind and handed her ticket to the agent. “One for London.”

Hannah held Cassidy’s ticket in her hand. “Can I cash this ticket in?” she inquired, almost as an afterthought. “My friend’s not going to be able to make it.”

“Sure, but you’ll only get about eighty per cent back.”

“That’s fine.” Hannah handed it over to the ticket agent. “It’s not my money, anyway,” she said, under her breath. But she had every intention of spending it. Cassie owed her that much. Damages, Hannah reasoned, along with mental stress and suffering, not to mention abandonment. 

                                                                    * * * *

Hannah had boarded the plane headed for Heathrow with raw excitement humming through her. But after a week of sightseeing all by herself, she was second-guessing her decision. Vacations weren’t meant to be experienced alone.

She’d seen the Tower of London and Big Ben. One day, she had taken a bus tour of castles, including Windsor—on the next day, she saw cathedrals and abbeys. Another one she had spent shopping, buying touristy trinkets and a T-shirt that read Kiss Me, I’m Scottish, which she had every intention of wearing for that leg of the trip.

She had also spent a day on the Internet, trying to locate the house that her mum had grown up in. When she found it, she had called a taxi and told the driver the street address, but when he took her there, the house had been torn down. So Hannah had taken a picture of the street sign and sadly returned to her hotel room.

Another day, she had taken a double-decker bus and visited the London Eye. She had even found the courage to ask another tourist to take her picture standing near it. But she hadn’t ridden the enormous wheel. Another thing she would have liked a companion for.

Hannah rested her head against the cool glass and looked out the window of the bus headed for Wales, grateful to be on the next leg of the trip. But, more and more, she was thinking of cutting her losses and just heading home. She’d imagined having such a wild time—sightseeing through the day with Cass, hitting the clubs at night, dancing, maybe even hooking up with some hot guy for just one night before moving on. It wasn’t as if she were anti-social, or not good at making friends. She’d just wanted to share this with Cass.

Hannah knew that she could get all dressed up and go to the pubs—she didn’t need Cass for that. She was pretty enough and garnered attention all on her own, but it just didn’t feel right. When she’d tried, she’d had no fun, no dancing—no shagging, as she and Cass had joked. She’d even had a couple of men approach her as she’d sat alone, eating a meal. However, when she’d just given them a cool smile, they’d nodded and gone on their way.

Hannah closed her eyes as a wave of loneliness descended over her, making her feel empty.

Someone tapped her shoulder.

“What?” She must have dozed off, she realised. Hannah sat up groggily, looking at the young guy. She thought he’d spoken to her in Welsh, which she didn’t understand. It was such a guttural-sounding language.

“Pardon, I’m sorry, can you speak English?” Hannah asked, hopeful.

He couldn’t be more than eighteen, she guessed. He grinned and spoke slowly. “This is the last bus tonight. This is as far as it goes.”

“Oh! Oh no! Did I miss my stop?” She had a sinking feeling.

“I don’t know. Where were you headed?”

“The girl back in London said Llandeilo, but much more throaty-sounding than that. She said that I could get a ticket there and transfer to another bus to Swansea. That’s where I have a room booked.”

“You are in Llandeilo.” He laughed indulgently at her pronunciation but went along with it.

“Yeah, see? Just like I said, just a little more throaty.” Hannah laughed too.

He grinned widely. “You should be able to get a ticket inside to continue on to Swansea. Can I help you with your bags?”

“Oh, you’re so sweet. Thank you.”

“Are you American?”

“No, Canadian,” she answered, turning the little maple leaf pin she had fastened on her windbreaker towards him. She had the same little red symbol tattooed on the inside of her left wrist and a tiny blue one on her right, in homage to her favourite hockey team—the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Anywhere I might know?” he asked.

“Probably not.”

They stepped off the bus and he set the bags at her feet.

“The station is right there.” He pointed. “But you’d better hurry—they don’t stay open all night. I’ve gotta go. You’ll be all right?” He watched her with concern.

“Yes, thank you. My name’s Hannah, by the way,” she said, holding her hand out and smiling. “Thanks for your help.”

“It’s good to meet you, Hannah,” he said, taking her hand. “Jakob, they call me Jake.” He seemed like a really easygoing, nice kid.

“It was good to meet you, Jake.”

“Have a good holiday, Hannah.” He waved as he walked off.

Her smile wavered as she picked up her bags. “Yeah. Thanks.” She headed into the station.

“Hi,” she said, to the woman at the desk. “One for Swansea.”

The ticket agent slid a ticket across the counter.

“Thank you,” Hannah said, paying then turning away and glancing at the ticket. “Ten?” She checked her watch. It was just past eight p.m. 

Even this would be bearable if she had someone else to do it with.
She sighed. Two hours? What was she going to do for two hours?
She sat down on one of the padded benches. Her butt had barely touched the seat when the ticket agent said, “We close at eight.”

Hannah watched her wide-eyed as the woman hefted one of her bags and started towards the door. She placed the bag on the sidewalk outside then turned the sign hanging on a chain from the door.

“You’re closing?” Hannah asked incredulously, while she struggled with her carry-on and the other case.

“What am I going to do? Wait outside?” And, as if things couldn’t be any worse, it began to piss rain.

The lady pointed to the pub down the street where some sketchy-looking men milled around out front, in the mounting fog. “Perhaps you could go enjoy a cuppa,” she suggested.

“I can’t…” Hannah paused when she heard the glass door lock behind her, the lights inside darkening.

“Oh, this is a magical trip. It just keeps getting better and better,” she complained to herself as the rain took on a steady beat. “I swear you are trying to teach me a lesson, Mum,” she mumbled, looking up at the wet sky. “But for the life of me I can’t figure out what it is. I just want to go home.”

She looked down the street. Maybe she could get a cup of coffee in one of the establishments, she thought, but changed her mind when she realised the shadows down by the pub seemed to be moving in her direction.

“This is just great!” she grumbled, looking down the street in the opposite direction, wondering where she would flee to if those shadows came any closer.

Instead a more immediate problem presented itself, as a car slowed and stopped near the kerb and the window began to roll down.

“I’m not a hooker!” she yelled, a second before she realised it was Jake.

He laughed. “I know you’re not. Do you need a lift?”

Now what should she do? Take her chances with the shadows closing in on her or drive off with strangers? She didn’t like either of her options.

“My gran says you can’t stay here,” he said—noting her indecision, Hannah suspected.

“Your gran?” Hannah looked closer into the car but couldn’t see through the darkness or the rain.

“Yeah, she says there are no more buses tonight.”

“But they sold me a ticket.” Hannah pulled it out of her inside jacket pocket. “See, it comes at ten…a.m.,” she realised belatedly. She threw her hand up in frustration, rolling her eyes.

Jake jumped out of the car. “Pop the boot, Gran,” he said, evidently for Hannah’s benefit since he then said something in Welsh. He tossed her luggage inside and opened the back passenger’s door.

Hannah still hesitated. “Really, Jake, I can’t…”

“Sure you can. You can’t stay here. We can’t leave you.”

She ducked into the backseat. “Thank you so much, Mrs…” she said, to the back of the older woman’s head.

“You can just call her Gran, Hannah. You’ll never be able to pronounce it, anyway.” Jake grinned.

Hannah nodded, uncomfortable with that, but he was probably right.

‘Gran’ started speaking quickly to Jake in Welsh as she pulled away from the bus station.

“Don’t mind her,” Jake explained, “Gran doesn’t feel comfortable speaking English. She’s kind of set in her ways. She wants to know the name of your hotel in Swansea. Sorry, I hope you don’t mind—I kinda told Gran all about you. We’ll just take you there.”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t ask you to do that. It’s out of your way and it’s such a horrible night to drive.” Hannah could barely see out of the windshield through the rain and fog.

“What’s the name? When Gran gets something in her head, there’s no changing her mind.”

“Um, Gorman’s, I think.”

The older woman nodded.

“Yep, we know it. That’s a great place. You’ll like it,” Jake offered.

It seemed pitch black outside. The darkness was eerie as they drove out of town, the fog getting thicker by the second.

“I really appreciate this, Jake.”

“Oh, no trouble. I’ve heard that Canadians are very kind. Maybe when you get back, you can let your country know that we Welsh are just as nice.”

“You can bet that I will.”

“Besides, Gran comes out every night to get me off the bus. She’s nice enough to meet me and drive me the rest of the way home after my shift, since this is as far as the buses travel. My gran’s the best.” 

Hannah could hear the genuine affection in his voice.

“Yes, she is,” Hannah agreed, smiling, beginning to feel a lot less creeped out by the whole situation. Accepting a ride in a foreign land from two strangers, when no one knew where she was, was probably not the smartest thing she’d ever done. It certainly wasn’t something she would normally do, not even if Cass had been with her. But it was the kid’s grandmother, for goodness sake. How much safer could it be?

“So specifically, where are you from?” Jake asked, craning in the seat to look at her. “I’m gonna look it up on Google when I get home.”

“Have you heard of Toronto?” At his nod, she added, “I’m from a smaller town near there, like a suburb, called Brampton.”

“Naw, never heard of it.”

“But I work in Toronto.”

“Oh? What do you do?”

“I’m in retail. I work at a store, too—a clothing store. Trying to work my way up. My friend Cassie and I are hoping to open our own shop someday. So I’m trying to learn the trade. From the ground up, I guess you’d say.”

“Ah oh,” Gran said. Hannah understood that—it was pretty universal.

Hannah looked up to see flashing lights. Gran slowed and came to a stop. An officer approached and ducked his head to the window.

Jake’s gran and the officer had one of those fascinatingly guttural conversations as Jake translated.

“There’s a tree down blocking the entire road. We need to turn around.”

Why was this day so difficult? Could nothing go right? It was as though she wasn’t supposed to reach Swansea. She should just go home. How many signs did she need to convince her that this trip had been a bad idea?

“He says it’s really bad from here on out. I guess you’re not reaching Swansea tonight, Hannah, sorry. He’s advising all motorists to stay off the roads if it isn’t an emergency.”

“Well, this is just great. I’m really sorry about all this. Please tell your gran.”

He did and she responded, turning the car around.

“Is there a hotel, an inn—a B&B you could drop me at?”

“We know the perfect place for you,” Jake said, smiling.

“Thanks. Again.” She leant back and rubbed her temples.

“Are you not feeling well?”

“It’s just been a long day.” And an even longer week, she thought miserably.

He let her be. After about fifteen minutes, the car slowed.

“Well, here we are. You can finally end this long day, if you want.”

Hannah sat up as they wended their way up a winding drive. A burst of lightning lit up the sky, illuminating the dwelling. It looked like a castle.

“Where are we?”

“This is our farm,” Jake informed her proudly.

“Your farm? It looks like a castle.”

Jake and his gran exchanged a look.

Jake snorted. “Well, no one has ever said that before.”

“Was there nowhere else you could drop me? I don’t want to impose. 
 You’ve already gone out of your way for me.”

“It’s no trouble.”

The car stopped and Jake jumped out to retrieve her bags. Hannah stepped out, only to be battered once again by the cold wind and rain.

“Follow Gran, Hannah, I’ve got these.”

She followed the older woman up the steps and through a massive wooden door. As soon as Hannah crossed the threshold, a weight descended upon her. Her head started to throb and her heart pounded in her ears—the misery of the day finally catching up with her.

From the inside, it looked like a farmhouse should look. It was open-plan and dimly lit. Hannah could see straight through to the kitchen, where a huge, old wooden table dominated the space.

Gran was talking away but Hannah hadn’t a clue as to what she was saying. But she followed her lead and removed her wet coat, which Gran promptly hung on a shiny brass coat rack.

“Thank you.”

Gran took her arm and towed her towards the kitchen, pulling out a chair from the table. Hannah sat obediently while Gran filled the kettle. 
She then directed Jake with Hannah’s bags up the stairs.

Hannah had felt much more comfortable when Jake was present—at least she could communicate with him.

Hannah’s head throbbed steadily and again she found herself rubbing her temples.

Jake and his grandmother spoke quietly when he returned.

“Let me show you your room. Gran will bring you up some tea shortly when it’s ready. Can I get you something for your headache?” he asked as he led her up the stairs.

“No, thanks—I have some aspirin in my luggage.”

Jake opened the door at the end of the hall. There was an enormous four-poster bed taking up most of the back wall. The rest of the furniture was solid-looking dark wood.

“Oh, Jake, this is a lovely room.”

“Yeah, next to Gran’s, this is the nicest.”

“Then why don’t you have this room?”

“This room? Naw, it gives me the creeps.”

“What on earth for?” Hannah asked, looking around. It looked perfectly homey.

He shrugged. “I’ll pull the drapes for you, to keep any light out.” He did so then turned on the adjoining bathroom light for her. “I’ve gotta go. I’ve got homework to do and maybe Gran’ll even make me some supper. Hope you sleep well.”

“Thank you. You’ve done so much for me.”

“No trouble. I hope your headache goes away,” he said, closing the door.

Hannah went straight to her bag and took out two aspirin, then opted for three. She looked around the room, then in the bathroom for something to wash them down with. But before she could locate a glass, Gran bustled in with a tray of steaming tea and a plate of fancy pastries.

She babbled incomprehensibly, gesturing and pointing first to the cup, then to Hannah’s head.

“Thank you.” Hannah bobbed.

Gran turned down the bed, and, to Hannah’s delight, she lit the fire. Hannah hadn’t even realised there was a fireplace in the room. She spread her hands out towards the growing flames. The older lady patted her shoulder and headed for the door.

She said something, to which Hannah thanked her again. Then she did the strangest thing. She gestured in the air, said something, and then crossed herself.

Hannah blinked. Perhaps she was just wishing her a good sleep? Maybe some kind of evening prayer or ritual which the older woman observed?

When she was alone, Hannah took the steaming tea and sat in a large wooden chair next to the crackling fire. She sipped the tea.

“Eeww!” It was awful. Hannah gave it a sniff. It didn’t smell any better than it tasted. Perhaps it was an herbal brew to help her head and that was what the gesturing towards her head had been about.

She watched the dancing flames, waiting for the tea to cool enough so she could swallow her pills. She did so then set the mug down. Her eyes fluttered as the heat relaxed her and the lapping flames mesmerised her tired eyes.

                                                          Chapter Two

Hannah awoke with a start. Her gaze darted around the room as she attempted to acclimate herself. The fire had died down some, the only other light source shone from the bathroom. Shadows danced and moved strangely around the room.

“I must have dozed off,” she said to herself, straightening in the chair.

One of the shadows wavered in front of her vision and all of a sudden she had the worst feeling she wasn’t alone.

Hannah tried to stand and fell over the blanket that covered her. She was positive that she hadn’t covered up when she’d sat down with the tea.

She touched her forehead. Well, that must be it. Someone had been in to check on her and had covered her up. Either Jake or his gran. They were so kind.

Hannah went into the adjoining bathroom to wash and change for bed. Her head still throbbed steadily.

She looked into the mirror. “Oh, well, that’s just lovely!” she said, to her bedraggled reflection. Her black mascara had run thanks to the being caught in the rain, giving her awesome racoon eyes. Her dark brown hair hung limply past her shoulders.

Turning on the hot water tap, Hannah listened to the knocking as the old pipes heated the water. She washed her face and cleaned up her eyes with the soft peach washcloth.

She pulled her T-shirt over her head and slid out of her tan capris. She looked into the mirror and admired her pink lacy bra and matching panties. She and Cass had gone shopping for all new underclothes just for this trip. They’d spent a whole day, and Hannah had bought all new bras and underwear, and even some pretty little camisoles and lingerie, just in case she landed that one-night stand. If a man was going to see her in her nothings, she was determined that they be new and pretty and feminine and lacy. She’d bought a set in every colour in the rainbow.

“Stupid Cassie!” she muttered again, cursing her friend for the hundredth time for standing her up.

Hannah wet the cloth again and began to wash her neck and arms. She washed across the top of her chest over the latest of her tattoos—the most elaborate one of the three. The same sad feeling arose that always overcame her when she looked at it.

Hannah thought back, remembering how she’d badgered Cassie into going with her to hold her hand at the tattoo parlour. She had known precisely what she was going to get when they’d walked in—an exact replica of the locket her mother had always worn. Her mother had wanted Hannah to have it, but when her mum had passed away after a long battle with cancer, Hannah hadn’t been able to bring herself to remove the necklace from her. Her mum had come to Canada with that beautiful little silver locket, a gift from Hannah’s father. It had travelled everywhere with her, and Hannah had wanted it to travel with her on her last journey.

That had been her plan. But when she and Cass had arrived at the tattoo parlour and Cassie had sat there going through the books, being totally annoying while Hannah waited patiently for her turn, one of the designs on the wall had captured her attention. A padlock encircled in chains, the keyhole a heart. Hannah had had the artist make one little addition that the example on the wall didn’t have—a broken chain, trailing, as if the key had been lost.

Hannah had walked out with that little tattoo hovering over her left breast just above her heart, a fitting tribute to her mum. She’d always be locked away in Hannah’s heart.

She sighed, looking back into the mirror as again a large shadow crossed over the door. “What is that?” she said squinting into the mirror.

When she peeked around the corner she couldn’t see anything or anyone in the room, only the shadows that the fire created, ebbing and flowing over the walls. “Oh, get a grip,” she told herself and stepped into the bedroom. “It’s just the shadows flickering from the fire.”

Hannah heard a noise and spun towards it. It had sounded like someone inhaling sharply. She narrowed her eyes, trying to see in the dimly lit room. There was nothing there. Feeling uncomfortable walking around in next to nothing, she pulled an oversized T-shirt from her luggage and went back into the bathroom.

Wetting the cloth with warm water again, Hannah wiped over her stomach. She felt something glide over her bare shoulder. Instead of whipping around, she stared hard into the mirror, watching for anything tangible. She brushed her hand over her shoulder. It had to have been her own hair she’d felt.

“Screw it.” Tossing the washcloth into the sink, Hannah pulled the Kiss Me, I’m Scottish T-shirt over her bra and panties. Normally, she slept in the nude or with just a T-shirt on, but she wasn’t feeling comfortable enough to do so.

She gave her teeth a quick brush and entered the bedroom again, carefully looking around. Her mind was playing tricks on her. It had been a long, weird day.

Hannah pulled on a pair of warm socks then hung her legs over the side of the bed. She worked her head from side to side, trying to relieve the knot in her neck that she believed to be the source of the headache.

Hannah heard it again. A sigh. Her head snapped up, causing pain to burst from behind her eyes. When her vision cleared, she shrieked and scrambled up onto the bed.

There was a man. At least, the portrait of a man.

“Ohh!” she breathed, as she stared at the full-length painting. The figure leaned casually on a sword. The huge frame dominated the whole wall.

Hannah slowly climbed from the bed and approached cautiously, almost waiting for something else to jump out and spook the shit out of her.

“How on earth did I not see this?” she whispered, nearing the image.

He was the most beautiful man she’d ever laid eyes on. His features were perfectly masculine and artfully aristocratic.

His eyes were dark and intense, but the artist had highlighted the inner iris with tiny white strokes, making it seem as if his eyes were lit from within. They sparkled with curiosity as though he were really seeing her. She looked into the dark orbs, holding her breath—transfixed, waiting, watching for them to shift or blink. But, of course, they remained still. She released the breath on a chuckle at her own silliness. What a marvellously talented artist to have made him look so lifelike.

She continued to examine him, noting the thick, dark hair that reached almost to the collar of his crisp-looking white shirt. She wondered if the cut was considered overlong and indecent for that time period. She tried to discern what era he might have been from, but there was nothing in the painting that even hinted at the answer. Hannah almost wished he were real. She longed to run her fingers through his thick mane. Had the artist taken liberties, or could this man have been so flawlessly designed?

“You are gorgeous!” She reached out almost reverently, hesitantly touching his cheek. “How could I have missed you?”

She allowed her eyes to drift over the rest of him. His shoulders were wide. The painter had revealed only a small glimpse of what hinted to be a gloriously muscled chest through the V of the unlaced shirt. His waist was trim but Hannah imagined there lay an amazing six-pack under the loosely tucked garment. Her eyes drifted lower, over the dark pants that covered his thick thighs, down to the calf-high, shiny black boots.

Her focus slowly lifted back over his body, her eyes lingering on his crotch for an overlong moment as she imagined that part of him, too. She didn’t have to be an artisan to imagine in precise proportion to the rest of his size what a delightful handful he might be. She sighed. A girl could dream, couldn’t she?

Hannah realised she was breathing rapidly. Her face was warm. Her breasts tingled. Her body was responding as it would if a real live man had captured her attention, although she couldn’t ever remember having a reaction like this without some kind of stimulation first. She almost wished the swirls of paint were not cool to her touch but warm and giving, like his skin might feel.

She centred her gaze back on his amazing face, noting the high cheekbones and the strong jaw, noticing the slight cleft in his chin. She touched it, wishing that her finger could delve inside the little dent. 

“Oh, I like that.” She smiled in appreciation of the tiny little dimple that gave the very manly features a boyish little twist.

Her attention swept to his mouth. He had full, sensual lips. “I bet you know how to kiss a girl, don’t you?” she asked them, wondering what it would be like to be kissed by those lips—to be kissed by a man like him at all. Would he take a woman over? Would he dominate her until she gave in? Not like he’d have to do much convincing. Or would he seduce a woman into submission with flowery words and a soft touch? It didn’t matter—either way, she’d be all over it.

Hannah swallowed hard and licked her parched lips as she ran the pad of her index finger over his full lower lip, resisting the sudden, overwhelming urge to press her own lips to the cool canvas. Hannah’s body trembled.

She gave herself a mental shake. It was the first time she’d ever been turned on by a painting. Putting distance between herself and it before looking back into his dark eyes, she gasped. They didn’t look as cold and intense as the first time she’d looked into them. They were a warm chocolate brown.

“How can that be?” She exhaled, again looking to him for answers. She rubbed her eyes and looked again. She shook her head from side to side. They were back to their original cold, blank stare. Her mind was playing tricks on her.

“Maybe I’m coming down with something?” She peeked up at him once more. “Why can’t I meet a man like you?” she asked him. “You know, if I did, I’d never go back home.” It was the truth. There was nothing to go back home to. Her mum was gone. Cass would soon marry that idiot Paul and things would change. Again.

Hannah backed away from the portrait, switched off the bathroom light then slid into bed. She couldn’t keep her eyes off the painting. The flickering firelight gave the impression that he was alive, moving.

All of a sudden, Hannah felt a moment of gripping grief, as if she mourned for the man in the painting. Her eyes filled as her chest tightened with pain. And just as fast as the feeling had come, it went, leaving her feeling nauseous and hot.

“Yeah, I’m definitely coming down with something. Just another perfect way to top off this perfect dream vacation,” she mumbled, punching the pillow before snuggling deep into the covers.

                                                         Chapter Three

Hannah awoke with a start, once more feeling like she was being watched. She sat up and her eyes went immediately to the handsome man in the portrait.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” she accused croakily, her hand rising to her sore throat. “Oh, damn it!” she bemoaned, pushing back the heavy blankets. 

Her throat was on fire. She needed a drink desperately.

She stumbled back over to the fireplace and picked up the half-empty cup of tea. “I wonder if this old place has a microwave?” She wrapped the blanket that someone had been kind enough to cover her with around her shoulders.

“Come on, portrait man, show me your kitchen,” she invited as she passed the painting.

She made her way carefully and quietly down the dark stairs, hoping she wouldn’t wake Gran and Jake. Lightning continued to illuminate the downstairs with tiny little pulsing flashes, helping light the way.

Finding the microwave, Hannah heated the bitter tea for thirty seconds, hoping to make it warm enough to drink but not too hot. She stopped the digital counter before the appliance could beep and wake the whole house. After removing the cup, she sipped slowly. It was good enough—she drank the rest down.

“Wha…” She shuddered. “That’s awful stuff.” She went to the fridge and looked in, hoping to find orange juice inside, to soothe her throat. 

“Oh, thank you,” she whispered, spotting some. She found a glass and poured herself some juice, then drank it, cooling the fire in her throat.

She touched her forehead, wondering if she were feverish. She felt very strange all of a sudden. It was like the room had taken on a life of its own. She felt and heard it breathing. It was as if she could see every particle in the room individually vibrating, moving, forming substance. Everything took on a silvery hue and wavered in front of her eyes. She leaned heavily on the counter to keep herself upright.

She was not alone.

Hannah shrieked, a strangled sound coming from her sore throat as the lightning illuminated the face of the real-life version of the man in the portrait. The blanket slipped from her shoulders. He was not far away from her. She wondered how he could have sneaked up on her like that without her hearing him. He was close enough to touch.

“It’s you,” she whispered. He was alive. The thought sent a thrill through her. “You scared me.”

“You scared me,” he repeated in a distinctive Scottish brogue. Another burst of sensation ran through her body at his accent. “You see me?”

“Barely,” she rasped, more from her awareness of him than the sore throat. “It’s so dark.” She reached towards him. He caught her hand and guided it towards his chest, splaying her fingers against its hard warmth. His lips parted on a sigh as though he were savouring her touch. A surge of energy shot through Hannah’s body as if all her molecules had suddenly come back together in one hot rush.

“You hear me?”

“Yes,” she answered, wondering why he was asking her these strange questions.

“You feel me?”

“Yes,” she answered, wanting to feel a whole lot more of him. He pushed her hand more solidly against his broad chest, giving her the impression he wanted it too. She moved closer, inexplicably drawn to him, just as she had been to the painting. He was even taller than she’d thought he would be. And, if possible, he was even more handsome than the artist had been able to portray. A rush of pure lust shot through her.

“It is you, isn’t it? From the painting.” She had assumed it was an old portrait, never giving thought that it might be more recent and that this glorious hunk of man might live here.

“Aye, ’tis.”

He traced his thumb leisurely over her bottom lip just as she’d done to his likeness in the painting. He swept his tongue slowly across his own lip as he continued to stare down at her. She shivered with anticipation.

“Is the sayin’ on your chemise the truth then, lass? Because true or no, I am goin’ to kiss ya,” he warned, leaning towards her.

She couldn’t seem to remember her own name, let alone what her damn shirt read at that particular moment.

The minute his mouth touched hers, her body responded with a hot, liquid rush, her nipples straining against the lace covering her breasts. Her lips parted on a surprised hiss of sensation, her knees weakening as he deepened the kiss, insistently teasing her mouth open.

She clung to him, returning his kiss with growing heat. He kissed like a desperate man, a man who had no tomorrow. He broke free of her mouth and she whimpered at the loss.

He clamped a strong hand over her jaw, looking at her intensely. “You are real.”

“So are you,” she said, still somewhat surprised that he actually existed. She remembered the sudden bout of grief she’d endured up in her room, for a man she’d thought long dead. But he was real and he was here. And she didn’t care that she didn’t know one single thing about him, not even his name. It only heightened her fascination towards him. She wanted him to fuck her—no questions asked, no regrets later. She’d been turned on by just the image of him—the real thing made her burn.

She thrust both of her hands inside his shirt and was thrilled when she felt a tremor run the length of him, proof that he was just as affected as she was.

He pulled her forcibly against him, again seeking her lips. He was ravenous. Hungry. He wasn’t even gentle. He devoured her, robbing her of breath. She dragged her mouth free and he cascaded kisses over her jaw, down her neck, nipping hungrily against her skin. He was intoxicating. Her head swam at the unreality of the whole situation. He was a complete stranger.

The next thing she knew, she was flat on her back on the scarred kitchen table, him moving over her. He ground his massive erection against her thigh, almost too eagerly, then he nudged her knees open with his own. Hannah protested and shifted under him.

“I’m sorry, lass, it has been a long time for me. You must remind me to be gentle.”

Hannah was strangely pleased to know that he hadn’t been with anyone recently. Neither had she—perhaps that explained why they were both so eager and he a little too rough.

He looked down at her, his chest heaving, waiting for her permission to continue. “Kiss me, lass.” He grinned, his upper lip curving boyishly, his dark eyes dancing with mischief. “I’m Scottish.”

She couldn’t help but smile at the sensual yet silly invitation. How could she turn him down? She didn’t need to fight the overwhelming urge to kiss him. She worked her fingers into his thick dark hair and pulled him down to her, kissing him greedily—hard and long, their tongues duelling and withdrawing.

Hannah ran her hands down his back over the wide expanse of hard muscle and coaxed him from his shirt. It looked strangely similar to the one in the painting, she thought fleetingly as he tossed it carelessly over the side of the table. She wanted to see if his chest was as amazing as she’d imagined it to be, only hinted at in the painting. She was not disappointed. His neck muscles corded with tension, tendons flexed impressively down his arms and chest as he levered himself over her. The crude-looking Celtic cross tattooed on his upper left biceps suddenly fascinated her. She dug her fingers into it, massaging the tight swell of solid strength.

“You are even more than I imagined,” she whispered. “Your creator did not do you justice.” She splayed her hands greedily over his skin, feeling the rich planes and dips of sinewy muscle.

He took hold of the hem of her large tee and pulled it over her head. He stilled, looking down at her. His eyes raked hotly over her tits, nicely displayed and plumped by her new bra. He massaged the side swell of her breast, his thumb hesitating above the tattoo on her chest. He leaned in and sucked on it lightly before he broke away, sending heat lancing through her. His gaze dropped lower over her flat stomach to the skimpy triangle of lace nestled between her thighs.

“What are these that you wear?” he asked, reaching out to touch the fabric as if he’d never seen the like before.

Hannah felt a little uncomfortable for a second. “They’re new,” she said simply, taking his hands and placing them over her breasts. He gripped her flesh firmly. She winced. He grunted another quick apology for his impatience.

Hannah placed her hands over his and squeezed softly, lifting slightly, demonstrating what she liked and the right pressure. His attention focused on their stacked palms kneading her tits. He gritted his teeth and growled. She wasn’t sure if he liked being told or shown what to do, but she knew by the way his eyes blazed that he enjoyed watching.

She released her hold and he squeezed her full breasts as she’d shown him. Then he took it a step further, circling her erect nipples with his open palms, sending another hot rush of need pooling between her legs. She arched, trying to get closer. He continued exploring, caressing her body greedily, finally pausing to cup her lace-covered crotch. She thrust her hips forward, filling his hand with her tingling cunt.

Another primitive sound erupted from deep in his chest as he dove towards her, open-mouthed—he tried to nip and tongue her awakening clit right through the lace. There was no finesse, no strategy, no technique to his seduction. He wasn’t quite clumsy, but he didn’t seem overly concerned with her pleasure. He was caught up in his own need. But to Hannah’s surprise, it didn’t matter to her. She knew that it was because of her that he was on a fast track to mindless culmination, and it turned her on just knowing it. She wanted to drive him so crazy that he couldn’t wait. It would give her wicked satisfaction to make a man like him come in his pants like a randy teenager before he even got to the good stuff.

She could feel the sultry heat streaming from his mouth as he exhaled heavily in excitement. The sweltering moisture and humidity wet her panties as he salivated, plastering them against her hidden pussy. Her growing arousal released its own torrent of musky liquid. The fabric worked its way into her lubricated crevice, causing the sweetest of friction under his plundering tongue. Regardless of the untamed skill, he had her hips listing underneath him. This might be a quick thing for both of them.

Belatedly, Hannah realised where they were. If he was going to continue, and it seemed like he was, they needed more privacy than the kitchen provided. God, what was she thinking? Jake or Gran could walk in at any minute.

She ran her fingers into his hair. “Let’s go upstairs,” she suggested.
He acted as if he hadn’t heard her.

She lightly scratched his scalp with her fingernails. “Hey, how ’bout some privacy, portrait man?” She didn’t know what to call him, so that would have to do.

Still, there was no response, so engrossed was he with his subject. She finally resorted to pulling his overlong hair. She reefed his head back painfully. He looked up at her dazedly for a moment before he grinned and licked his lips, like a starving man falling on a feast. The look on his face sent another thrill through her.

“Let’s go upstairs before Jake or Gran walk in on us.”

He watched her, puzzled for a moment, before picking her up in his arms and heading for the stairs. She felt like they were floating and before she could even clasp her arms around his neck and kiss the throbbing pulse hammering in his throat, they were in her room.

He booted the door shut, all but tossed her on the bed and fell on her, taking up right where he’d left off, his face between her legs. But it wasn’t long before that wasn’t enough for him. Hannah anticipated his need, because it was her own as well. There was no reason for the lace to be between them any longer now that they were alone in her room. She lifted her hips and he pulled the fabric away from her vigorously—she thought she heard it tear.

He stilled again as he looked down at her, fully exposed to his view. His breath rushed from his lungs as he groaned, another primitive but titillating sound. His mouth opened as if he were surprised. Hannah watched him, wondering at this reaction.

He then took his hands and all but framed them around her exposed flesh. He ran his fingers over her bare skin, fingering it, trying her out, touching her like a new toy. “You have no hair here,” he said, sounding astounded.

Hannah was taken aback by his reaction. Her face suffused with heat, making her self-conscious. Did he not like that? She didn’t think that European woman were much different from North American women anymore. Canadian boys preferred a bald beaver.

“Do you not like it this way?” she asked, apprehensively, wishing she could cover herself.

His dark eyes shot to hers. “I…I’ve never seen the like,” he breathed. His smouldering gaze warmed her as she saw the raw pleasure return to his gaze. He looked down at her, and his nostrils flared as he groaned in rapture, licking his lips. He lunged at her, much like he’d done on the kitchen table. He kissed her bare mound slowly and tenderly, as she would expect him to kiss her mouth. It felt strangely intimate and erotic.

“How did ya accomplish this?” he asked, his breath heaving. “’Tis lovely. You are so smooth and soft.” He skimmed his closed lips everywhere, all over her, his unshaven jaw rasping against her bare skin, making her shudder with sensitivity.

She chuckled. “It’s magic.”

He stilled and his gaze shot to hers. “Are ya a witch?”

She laughed uneasily. “No, but I’ve been called something similar a time or two.” She thrust her hands into his hair and pulled her knees back, opening herself to him, and he continued his exploration.

“By the Christ, lass, ya taste of sweet honey,” he groaned, then finally swept his tongue over the hot, wet opening begging for his attention. He licked through the slickness leading straight to her delicate clit, a deep sound of approval rumbling through his chest. He probed and sucked the sensitive bud almost painfully.

“Not so rough,” she admonished.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help it,” he murmured, taking up a much softer stroke with his tongue.

“Mmm,” she moaned, encouraging this new method. “Ahh, yes!” she purred as she felt the first stirrings of orgasm uncurling deep inside her. 

“Swirl your tongue clockwise,” she panted, wriggling her backside, straining to increase the pressure now. He hesitated. Again, she wondered if he didn’t appreciate her telling him what she liked, but she was too far gone to give a shit about his delicate ego at the moment. She slid her hand down between them, pausing to slip the tip of her finger between his damp lips, effectively lubricating it. She began to demonstrate for him what she wanted him to do with his tongue.
He watched—stunned, she thought—before being mesmerised by her caressing the engorged bud. Circling fast then slow, one way then the other, creating delicious friction before flicking over her clit quickly, simulating what she wanted him to do to her. She tapped the nub lightly and started again. She trembled at the sensation of not only the raw heat she was producing for herself, but also the almost wicked feeling it gave her to have him watching her do it. She could feel his hot breath escalating as his excitement grew, creating a tantalising sensation fanning across her exposed flesh.

He snarled again, an animalistic primitive sound, knocking her hand away with a swat of his own. He lapped and teased just as she wanted.

Hannah’s muscles bunched and flexed as she strained to drag it out. Now that he’d finally got the rhythm, it felt so incredibly good—she wanted it to last a little longer. Her hands fisted and her toes curled as she tried to prolong the sweet suffering.

She could feel the mattress rise and fall as he thrust his hips into it in his own enthusiasm. Oh, save some for me, she thought, realising that earlier she’d been praying for him to come, just to give herself some cheap thrill to overwhelm a guy who was clearly out of her league, like her portrait man. But now she wanted to be the beneficiary of his rock-hard cock plunging into her and not the mattress, which was the only thing profiting from his furious thrusting.

But she was too late—he groaned deep in his throat and she felt his body shudder. The mattress began a slower roll under her hips as he ground into it, sustaining his climax.

He slowed his tongue’s frenzied pace on her clit, to her disappointment. But even that was short-lived when he again started kissing her pussy as he had kissed her mouth. Deep sounds of satisfaction reverberated through his chest, making his lips vibrate with a low hum, sending Hannah into a quivering orgasm of her own.

Her back arched as she came, but instead of backing off, as she wanted him to do, he kept up the assault with his lips and tongue. She felt much too sensitive to go on—it no longer felt good. She needed some distance. She tried to wiggle away but he seized her hips roughly, holding her right where she was. He was so strong.

“Stop,” she said, trying to push his head away.

“No, I want more!” he demanded loudly, pushing back using his muscular neck to get what he wanted.

She attempted to close her legs but he forced them wide, planting his big hands on her thighs.

“Please…stop!” she cried. “You’re hurting me!”

He stilled immediately. “I’m sorry,” he said before laying his head on her bare stomach. “You are like no one I have ever known before. You are so beautiful. So open. You must forgive me, I have no control.”

He said all the right things. She closed her hands around his head, holding him to her. He turned his face and kissed her stomach, slowly making his way up to her shoulders.

He grinned down at her, playfully. “We did not remove this.” He ran a finger down the inside of her bra strap, his thumb again covering her tattoo, making her shiver at his touch. “But we have time, yeah?”

She nodded.

The corner of his mouth lifted cockily. “So what’s the verdict, lass? Do I know how to kiss?”

“You were watching me!” she accused.

“Aye, ya knew that I was. You could feel it. You could feel me. And you liked it,” he finished self-assuredly.

“How would you know that?”

“The same way that I know you wanted to kiss me, even when you thought that I wasna real. I could see it in your eyes. How you forced yourself to turn from me.”

“Because it was just the portrait. The real thing is much better.” She ran her hand over his chest.

“Ya are a bold one, aren’t ya?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know that it’s bold to know what I like or what I want. It just makes it better for both of us, don’t you think?”

“Aye. Although I am not used to such a thing. Where I come from the man is the aggressor and the women sometimes just…lie there.” He lifted a shoulder.

“A woman’s pleasure is just…what? Secondary? Where do you come from, the Dark Ages?” She chuckled, then winced remembering her sore throat. “Where I come from a woman’s pleasure is just as important as a man’s. And I will have you know that from what I’ve seen, a man’s pleasure is only heightened when he knows that he has pleasured the woman.” She wrapped her hand around her aching throat. Funny, it hadn’t bothered her at all while she was busy with him.

“You are ill.”

“Perhaps I shouldn’t have kissed you. You might get sick too.”

“I doubt that. I will get you some cordial,” he offered, rolling out of bed.

“Cordial?” she questioned. “Oh, you mean juice. Thank you.” Just as he reached the door, she remembered their clothing left in the kitchen. 

“Will you pick up our shirts and the blanket before someone else finds them?”

He nodded as he disappeared.

Hannah sighed and raised her arms over her head to stretch. What a strange turn her trip had taken now. After all the misery she’d endured yesterday, she had been convinced she should go home, and now that was the furthest thing from her mind. She might not even continue on to Scotland or Ireland, but spend what time she had left here, if Gran didn’t mind her staying on. She’d pay or work or both.

She unhooked her bra and tossed it over the side of the bed, then pulled the covers over her naked body, waiting sleepily for him to return.

                                                      Chapter Four

She was almost asleep when she felt that strange shift of time and space again. She could see every jittering particle that made up the room. Then he was there, appearing as though he’d just stepped out of the portrait and not come through the door. Hannah shook her head, trying to clear it. She must be feverish. She touched her cheek. It did feel warm.

He set the glass of juice on the table beside her and sat down on the edge of the bed. Hannah stared up at him and admired his chiselled features. He was so handsome that he didn’t seem real. How could anyone be so heavenly?

“You are lookin’ at me like that again.” His mouth curved cockily. “I am—what did ya say?—gorgeous.”

“And arrogant too,” Hannah retorted, sitting up to take a sip of the orange juice. He ran a finger over the blue maple leaf on her right wrist. She kept her left hand over the sheet, keeping herself covered. “Ahh, that’s good. Thank you. It feels so good on my throat.”

“You ink your skin,” he commented.

“So do you,” she said.

“Where I come from this is another thing women do not do.”

“Where do you come from, Caveman?” she teased.

He ignored her question, staring at her bare shoulders, his eyes warming by degrees. He traced his index finger from just under her ear, softly following the column of her throat, over her shoulder, causing goosebumps to skitter over her skin.

“I would have liked to have removed that garment from you.” His husky voice went right through her. His speech was somewhat formal, she noted, wondering where it was that he came from, but she didn’t ask again. Not yet. She liked this air of anonymity. It was exhilarating and felt somehow naughty.

She smiled. “We have time, yeah?” she asked, using his line from earlier, hoping that he too wanted to spend more time with her. They’d have time to talk and get to know one another when this sizzling sexual energy was not so raw.

“Aye, but I would not waste it,” he said, tugging the sheet from her grasp, exposing her breasts to him.

His gaze dropped, lingering on her tits. A ragged growl escaped his lips as he moved onto the bed, stalking her. He threw a big knee over her so that he straddled her legs. He placed big hands over her boobs and he cupped and plumped them just as she’d schooled him earlier in the night. She slid down the bed onto her back, coaxing him with her. She guided his jaw, persuading his warm lips back to hers. Hannah kissed him with utter abandon. She was feeling so reckless with this guy. It was crazy but at the same time such an aphrodisiac to be with a stranger. She’d never done this before—it made her bolder, and she kissed him all open-mouthed and unrefined, as he seemed to like it.

He was very vocal as his excitement grew, groaning and growling. Hannah worried that Gran or Jake might hear them. What kind of impression would that make? She was a guest in their home shagging…the help? Maybe he worked here for Gran, or maybe he was a family member? Which would be worse? Whoever he was, he was a guy she’d barely exchanged a few words with and knew absolutely nothing about except that he was Scottish, he liked to kiss like there was no tomorrow and that the women he dated apparently didn’t wear pretty undies or keep their privates well maintained. And he very much enjoyed slobbering over said privates.

He slid his mouth from hers and moved over her breasts. He went straight to her nipples, sucking and nipping her crudely. She tried moving around under him to make it better for herself but it wasn’t helping.

He raised his dark head and looked at her as if he knew he was not pleasing her, his dark orbs blazing desire. “You will show me what you like. I would pleasure my woman to pleasure myself.”

Hannah trembled as he called her his woman. No one had ever called her that.

“Okay, buster, you asked for it.” She not so gently coaxed him onto his back.

“Buster?” he questioned.

“Right, for now, I’m Lass and you’re Buster.” No names needed.

He gave her a slow, bemused nod.

She ignored him. “Can we get rid of these?” She ran a finger on the inside of his pants. “They are kind of in my way.” He untied the laces. She watched, fascinated by the fact that he had lace-up trousers at all—authentic-looking apparel just like he’d worn to pose for the portrait. Perhaps he worked at a Renaissance house or a medieval tourist attraction, she thought momentarily, trying to explain his clothing.

Then Hannah’s attention went straight to the impressive, mouth-watering bulge in those breeches, and all the questions she had didn’t seem to matter.

“Ya have a difficult time keepin’ your eye from there, yeah?” he teased her.

She felt the blush creep up her neck.

“I saw how your eyes lingered. Ya wondered, didn’t ya?” He pulled the tight-fitting material from his body. “I promise ya, lass, ya will not be disappointed,” he vowed arrogantly.

His cock sprang free, and she was not disappointed but again riveted. He was uncircumcised. She’d never been with a guy who hadn’t had the procedure. This was a night of firsts. She reached for him but he sidestepped her.

“If ya be wantin’ me to last, lass, ya had better show me what you want and hurry up aboot it.”

“Then on your back, portrait man. School’s in,” she quipped.

When he was on his back, she settled herself on top of him.

“You are so soft, so smooth,” he moaned.

She swished her body over him sensually, demonstrating how very soft she was all over. He looped his arms around her back, his palms skating over her skin. She started kissing him, teasing his lips. She kissed his chin, even running the tip of her tongue through that little cleft that captured her attention. She lightly grazed it with her teeth before moving lower, kissing, nipping, gently sucking his neck and chest.
She wrapped her hands around his pecs and squeezed them softly. Using her open palms, she ringed his tiny nipples, as he’d done to her. They stiffened at her touch. She’d never stimulated a man’s before. She was trying many new things tonight. She felt powerful and eager to please him. It was just as potent to demonstrate exactly how he could satisfy her by using him as the example.

Hannah plucked each bud at the same time, making sure that they were fully erect. She looped around each one slowly with her fingers, even scraping them lightly with her fingernails.

He exhaled heavily and surged, grinding his hot, distended cock against her. She sneaked a peek up at him. His head was thrown back, his eyes closed, his mouth open in gratification.

She alternated kissing then licking the hardened peaks, with feathery, teasing strokes. His chest rumbled with pleasure. She loved the noises he made.

Hannah circled his right side with her tongue, making sure to duplicate the same motion on his left with the tip of her index finger. He roared and almost came off the bed. She knew how good that felt.

“Ssshhh!” Hannah hissed. “Shut up, they’ll hear us!” she admonished, cupping her hand over his mouth.

He grunted, grasping either side of her head and pushing her back towards his chest. Hannah grinned, pleased by his reaction. She repeated the action, swirling in tandem with her tongue and her finger, gliding both deliciously over the raised flesh. She even used her teeth to give him the softest little nip before rotating faster and faster while keeping in sync. Stirring and stroking, lapping and twiddling. That was the way that she liked it. It always gave her the feeling that two tongues were involved in loving her.

“Doesn’t it feel good?” she asked him. “Wouldn’t you like two women to suckle you at the same time?” Not that she would share. He was hers.

He roared again, his hips surging against her.

She was almost as stimulated as she would be if he were doing this to her. Her cunt was burning with insatiable eagerness and dripping wet. She rubbed her glistening pussy over his thigh, demanding the pressure, as she continued to demonstrate what she liked.

His chest hummed with one solid moan after another.

Hannah soon forgot all about the tutorial. She just did whatever felt good. And it all felt good. Her heart was pounding—she could barely breathe. She wanted his tongue on her clit doing all the magical things that she was now doing to him. Imagining it sweeping over the aching bud, she began a fast, flicking rhythm on his nipple that would have brought her to climax instantly.

“Oh, God!” she moaned, dragging her wet, throbbing pussy over his leg, riding it. A tiny spasm fluttered deep inside her. He flexed his thigh as she moved over him, making the muscle hard for her. She was like a cat and he was the scratching post. She wanted him inside her. And she wanted it now.

She sat up and grasped his quivering cock firmly in her hand. She rose up on her knees over him, rubbing the head of his unaltered penis between her swollen, saturated lips then slowly squatted over him. She closed her eyes in rapture as she sank down the length of his hot, straining flesh. She sighed in near relief to finally have him filling her.

He bellowed, attempting to sit up, throwing his arms around her. He stilled and she knew that he was trying to stop himself from coming, trying to prolong this exquisite feeling. He was so strong she couldn’t move. She could feel his cock jerking and rippling inside her. She knew that he wouldn’t be maintaining that impressive stiffness for much longer and she wanted to ride before he lost all substance.

“Ahh, let me move,” she begged. She pushed at his chest forcefully, making him take to his back again. He stared at her in surprise. But at the moment she didn’t care if he didn’t like aggressive women. That was what he was about to experience, and when she was done with him, he’d be changing his ‘type’.

She planted her hands in the middle of his chest and she used her leg muscles, pumping her tightening pussy up and down his turgid cock. 

Throwing her head back, she concentrated on one thing—her own climax—knowing that hers would bring his. She rode him hard, wringing every last ounce of juice from them both. She shuddered, small cries of ecstasy ringing from her parched throat as one gripping, delectable wave after another pounded through her. She ground herself against him until every last delicious tremor subsided then she collapsed against his sweaty chest until her breathing returned to normal.

Perhaps she was not so different, she thought. She’d been obsessed in seeking her own pleasure and his had been secondary. She gave a mental shrug. He’d seemed to enjoy it anyway.

She took a deep, satisfied breath and attempted to roll off him. “Do not leave me,” he said gruffly, grabbing her wrist and shifting his hips to keep them connected.

“I was just moving off you. I’m not going anywhere.”

His dark eyes searched hers and he relaxed his hold on her. They shifted onto their sides as he slipped out of her. She saw disappointment cross his handsome face.

She smiled sleepily, happy that he seemed to want to spend more time with her, too. She rubbed her thumb over his cheek. “We have time,” she whispered, cuddling into his arms. He tucked her head under his chin and held her. She was asleep within seconds.

 * * * *
Hannah liked sleeping with him. Every time she moved, he touched her in some way, running his hands over her, reassuring her that he was there. He kissed her gently on the forehead or on the cheek, occasionally on the lips. He was so sweet and attentive. She could honestly get used to this. She wanted to turn into him and do it again, but she was so hot and groggy from whatever she was coming down with that she couldn’t seem to find the energy. She’d make it up to him in the morning, she promised herself, before falling back into a disturbed sleep.
Later, she awoke—slowly, but she knew immediately that she was alone, his warm chest no longer under her ear. She stretched, aching all over. Her throat felt less raw, but was an annoying dull pain that she knew would plague her throughout the day. She opened her eyes and tucked her hands behind her head so that she could stare at his portrait in the light of day. “Good morning, handsome,” she greeted him before hopping out of bed and heading for the bathroom.
Hannah enjoyed a long, hot shower. Wrapping one towel around her wet hair and another around her body, she stepped out of the stall. She wiped the steam from the mirror and looked at her reflection. She was a little pale, like she got when she was sick. She entered the bedroom and ransacked her luggage for some clothes. She let the terrycloth drop to the floor and looked over her shoulder at the portrait. “That’s for you, if you’re watching,” she chuckled, going back into the bathroom.
It wasn’t until Hannah pulled her camisole over her head that she noticed the bruises around her breasts. Somebody’s overeager fingerprints marred her pale flesh.
Strutting back into the bedroom in just the camisole and panties, Hannah hoped to lure him out from wherever it was that he’d been spying on her. But, to her disappointment, he didn’t come. She finished dressing, pulled her damp hair into a sloppy bun, and went in search of her portrait man.
Hannah found Jake and his gran in the kitchen having breakfast, but was disappointed that the face she sought was not at the table awaiting her.
Gran turned and gave Hannah a weak greeting before turning back to the pot she was stirring.
“G’morning, Hannah, did you sleep well?” Jake asked, spooning a mouthful of what looked and smelt like porridge into his mouth.
Jake smiled at her. Hannah wondered if he’d heard their rather noisy sex during the night and a blush suffused her cheeks.
“Yes, thank you,” she said, unable to look directly at him. She pulled out a chair and sat down. “Do you have to work today?” she inquired.
“Not in town, no. But I have chores I need to do on the farm. But, whenever you like, I can run you back into town to catch that bus to Swansea.”
“Well…um…” She bit her lip. They were going to think she was a pushy bitch but she wanted to stay, if they didn’t mind. “Do you think…um, well, do you think your gran would mind if I stuck around for a couple of days? I’ll pay, just like I would at any hotel. I can work, do chores for her, or help you, if you’d like. You might have to show me what to do. I’ve never worked on a farm before, but I’m willing to learn.” She looked at him hopefully.
He said a mouthful of Welsh to his gran who turned from the counter and stared hard at Hannah, speaking to Jake quickly. “I’m guessing she’d rather I not stay?” she asked Jake.
“No, it’s not that,” Jake answered, not looking at Hannah. “You’re welcome to stay if that’s what you’d like to do. Gran just thinks that you might be more comfortable, you know, at Gorman’s in Swansea, like you planned.”
That was a less than enthusiastic invitation. Well, maybe she’d just stay for one more day and convince portrait guy to come and stay in Swansea with her. He could still go to work and do the things he had to do then spend the rest of his time with her. Maybe she’d forget all about going on to Scotland and Ireland. She might just spend the rest of her trip with him if he were game.
Gran set a hot steaming cup of tea in front of Hannah. “Thank you,” she said, hoping it wasn’t the same blend as last night. She took a tentative sniff and smiled when it smelt of real tea. She took a small sip.
“How’s the headache?”
“Mmm, better, thanks. Just have a bit of a sore throat today.”
“Gran says you look a little flushed.”
Hannah chuckled nervously.

Jake’s gran set a bowl of porridge in front of her and sat down to join them.
Hannah took a spoonful of treacle from the fancy little pot and swirled it over the porridge, wondering how to bring up the subject of her missing man. She really should have got his name before she fell asleep. It would make this enquiry a lot easier.
“Um…” She tried the oatmeal. “Do you have…workers—you know, employees that work here—besides you?”
“Nope, there’s just me and Gran. When we need outside help, the neighbours usually pitch in.”
“Huh. Do you rent out rooms?” she fished.
“Nope, only to you.” He chuckled, scraping the last of his breakfast from the bottom of the bowl.
Hannah pinched her lip. “Um, okay, look… Last night, I, uh… My throat was sore, as I said, so I came down here to see if maybe you had some orange juice. I hope you don’t mind,” Hannah rushed. “Um, and I, uh, ran into a man…”
Jake’s Gran shot to her feet and she crossed herself just like she’d done last evening before she left Hannah’s room.
“You met a man…down here?” Jake said slowly.
Hannah swallowed and laughed again uneasily. “Yeah, he…um…he was here in the kitchen. He looks just like the guy in the painting in my room.”
Jake’s eyes rounded and his spoon fell noisily to the table as his gran spoke rapidly in an overly excited voice. Uneasiness skittered across the back of Hannah’s neck.
“Did he give you a name?” Jake asked. “Gran wants to know.”
“No, I didn’t catch his name. I was hoping you would tell me his name.”
Jake shook his head. “Nope, I can’t help you.” He stood up from the table and took his bowl to the sink. “You let me know when you’re ready to go to the bus station, Hannah. I’ll gladly take you.”
“But…I was hoping…to stay and…”
Jake shook his head slowly with a sceptical look on his young face. “And hang out with a ghost some more? I doubt that’s what you had in mind for your holiday.”
“A ghost?” She gave a half-assed chuckle, watching Jake intently. 

“Right, a ghost. Funny. Canadian tourist, right here”—she pointed at her own face—“in haunted old Wales,” she tried to joke, but by the look on his face he didn’t find it funny.
“Look, Hannah, I don’t know what to say. Gran swears he’s here. I’ve never actually seen him, so I don’t really believe it, but I will admit some strange stuff goes on here that defies explanation. If you ran into him last night, I’m sorry that he scared you.”
“He didn’t…scare me… You’re scaring me. You’re trying to make me believe that…that the guy I”—she almost said ‘fucked’ before she caught herself—“met was a ghost?”
“Well, I guess you should consider yourself lucky that he didn’t frighten you. I’ve gotta go get some work done before you need to leave.”
He began to walk out of the room. Hannah jumped up and gripped his arm as near hysteria climbed up her sore throat. “The guy, in the portrait. He’s dead?”
“Well, I don’t know. I assume he is. That painting has been here as long as I can remember. It was here when Gran was a child, she told me before. Her family has lived here for generations.”
Hannah began to tremble uncontrollably. Jake lowered her into a chair.
“It’s okay, Hannah. You’ll be all right. I’ll get you out of here. I’ll take you to Swansea and you can just carry on with your trip. Just think of the story you’ll get to tell when you get back to Canada.”
The story she’d get to tell? Who the hell would believe her? Oh, by the way, Cass, I shagged a ghost while I was in the UK. They’d lock her up and throw away the key for sure. “But…but who is the man in the painting?” She looked at him, needing answers.
“I don’t know. Like I said, it was here. For all we know it is just an artist’s vision and not a real person at all.” He looked over at his gran and shrugged.
Hannah didn’t believe that. He had been real. If he was a—she didn’t even want to think it—a ghost, then he had to have been alive at some point.
Hannah felt near to tears. She covered her mouth with her hand trying to keep it in. What was going on? She felt that same awful ache of grief she’d experienced upstairs. She couldn’t be so sick that she’d hallucinated this whole thing.
Jake bent down and patted her shoulder. “Why don’t you go throw some water on your face and pack up your things? I’ll take you to your hotel.”
Hannah swallowed hard and nodded, getting up and stumbling blindly towards the stairs.
She entered the room, keeping her back to the portrait, piling her things into her suitcase without folding them neatly. She went into the bathroom and turned on the faucet,owing cold water on her face then drying it without even looking into the mirror, afraid that she might see him there.
Hannah had to know. She pulled the collar of her shirt wide and looked down at her breasts. The bruises were still there. What the fuck? Wow, I’ve been ‘used’ by a ghost. Leave it to her to have a relationship with the most unavailable guy around. Oh, wait—he wasn’t a guy at all. She felt light-headed. Jake was right, she needed to get the hell away from here.
©Copyright H K Carlton

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